Breaking Ground: The Story of the London Irish Women's Centre

If you're in the Dublin area tomorrow, 10 November at 1pm, check out this film at the IFI in Temple Bar:

Breaking Ground: The Story of the London Irish Women's Centre tells the story of the rise and fall of the London Irish Women's Centre from 1983 to 2012. Through vibrant archive material and interviews with 18 women, the film charts the centre’s social and political campaigning on behalf of Irish women, many of whom were in London in search of an alternative life away from the repressive, predominately Catholic culture of Ireland. The film will be followed by a Q&A with the London-based director Michelle Deignan.

The Rag, Issue #6 is finished! And the London Anarchist Bookfair!

Dear RAG followers,
We are overjoyed to announce that after three long years, the newest edition of The Rag is complete! It was touch and go, and there were a few late nights put in, but everyone rallied together and Rag #6 was born! There are so many great articles in this issue, it would be difficult to only name a few. If you're in London, you can find it for sale in The Feminist Library and Housman's Bookshop. If you're in Ireland, we will be distributing the magazine after our launch, which we are planning in a few weeks time (more on that later!).

RAG members Leticia and Angela (the person writing this blog entry) headed over to London from Dublin on the "Sail and Rail," a journey enjoyable to some but grueling to others, especially when weighed down with piles of heavy magazines! 

But the trip was worth it on Saturday, when folks began to approach our stall to get their hands on the newest edition of The Rag. It was so wonderful to not have to disappoint people looking for the next issue, and to say, "Here it is! The issue you've been waiting for!" And to show that interest in anarcha-feminism is far from waning, we sold a few hefty stacks of back issues as well. 

AK press kindly asked RAG to participate in their anarcha-feminist panel discussion: Unreasonable Demands. The description read, "Gender hierarchy is entrenched in our society – and, unfortunately, is frequently reproduced within anarchist movements, even as we oppose other kinds of hierarchies. Meanwhile, as 'mainstream' feminism becomes increasingly accepted and co-opted by liberals and neoliberal bootstrappers alike, anarchist feminists often find ourselves sidelined." Also on the panel was Zoe Stavri, author of the Another Angry Woman blog. Though I was there on behalf of RAG, I actually spoke about the Abortion Rights Campaign, which I've been heavily involved in, and the challenges faced in creating the campaign goals and strategy. I talked about how the Abortion Rights Campaign settled on "Free, Safe, & Legal" as their ultimate goal, although it's considered an "unreasonable demand," even amongst pro-choice advocates. 

The packed room listened with great attention, and several people asked questions about the campaign and the history around how Ireland became an "abortion-free" country. Overall, people were curious about the specific strategies needed to make abortion available in Ireland beyond the very restrictive and punitive new legislation. I explained that abortion cannot be legal without appealing the 8th amendment. And to do that, we need a referendum. I was very surprised that many people in the audience did not know what the 8th amendment to the Irish Constitution was, though, admittedly I shouldn't have been, as many people living in Ireland don't know either. 

Anarchism is obviously about smashing the state, so I think some people were frustrated in the fact that we are working within the existing political structures. One woman even suggested we get to the streets with our guns! But that wouldn't change the fact that we still need a referendum. We need to repeal the 8th amendment while we're waiting for the Revolution!

People also wanted to know about existing networks in Ireland that support women going through crisis pregnancies, both during and after their terminations. I mentioned the UK organisation Abortion Support Network (ASN), which helps find accommodation and funding for women in Ireland traveling to the UK for abortions. However, as for Irish support, I was at a loss. This question would come up again later in another panel discussion, and it begs discussion.

Another question which has haunted me ever since came from a person wanting to know what people in the UK can do to support us in Ireland in our campaign for free, safe, and legal abortion. I responded that they could spread the word and help us educate people in the situation in Ireland, support ASN of course, and I should have probably stressed more that people can also donate to and follow the Abortion Rights Campaign on facebook, Twitter, and by signing up to receive their electronic newsletter. But I return to this question because there must be more that our throngs of supporters all around the world can do. Hopefully the campaign can have a think about it and come up with a more comprehensive list of actions.

The bulk of the discussion, however definitely went to Zoe, who spoke compellingly about how we should "kill all men." I couldn't possibly sum it up, but let's just say it was entertaining, and many of the attendees described it as "refreshing." 

Many thanks go to RAG friend Criostoir, who manned the stall for us when both Leticia and I were participating in the Bookfair. And to Andrew, Aileen, and Farah from the WSM who arranged for us to share their table.

The second panel I took part in was organised by the WSM, was "about the hidden, yet central role of anarchists in the pro-choice campaign" and "the importance of international solidarity with the abortion rights struggle." To that end, I described the non-hierarchical structure created by the Abortion Rights Campaign and the five working groups, as well as how decisions and strategy are made. Farah spoke about the article she wrote for the most recent Irish Anarchist Review about intersectionality in the pro-choice movement, which led to an interesting discussion. 

We left the Bookfair empty handed, having unloaded all of our Rag #6 issues that we lugged over! Hooray! Thanks to everyone who chatted with us, bought magazines, asked questions at the panels, and who were generally awesome. And thanks to the organisers, who made sure everything ran smoothly.


Documentary filmmaker seeks Irish women with crisis pregnancies

Inbar Livne, student and documentary filmmaker from London, is putting together a documentary based on testimonies from women who have dealt with or are currently dealing with crisis pregnancies. The film will convey their stories from a non-judgmental perspective and will support women, no matter what their decision. She hopes the film will be a resource for other women who have an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy, or a pregnancy that becomes a crisis for whatever reason. 

She is looking for women who would be interested in sharing their story to help raise awareness and break the stigma around this issue. 

If you want to hear more about the project or see stories of other women from Ireland and NI who have already shared their experience, please contact her on 

 Your identity will remain confidential if you wish.

For more information about the project, click here, here, and here.

What is Anarcha-Feminism to RAG?

RAG is very pleased to be participating in this year's Dublin Anarchist Bookfair on Saturday, the 6th of April in Liberty Hall. (Programme details can be found by clicking on the link). We'll be there with back issues of the Rag, our distro of magazines and books from around the world, and other exciting goodies. Please visit our table and say hello! 

Leading up to the bookfair, we thought we would share an essay by RAG that was recently published in the new expanded edition of Quiet Rumours, an Anarcha-Feminist Reader by Dark Star Collective (published by AK Press). You may have often wondered, "What is Anarcha-Feminism?" and we hope this short essay will give you an idea.

Why Anarcha-feminism?
RAG is a group of anarcha-feminist women in Dublin, Ireland. We are all feminists, united in our recognition that women's subordination exists. Our struggle needs to be fought alongside the struggle against other forms of oppression, not treated as an afterthought or as a distraction. We are all anarchists, united in our belief for the need to create alternatives to this capitalist, patriarchal society wherein all are dominated and exploited. RAG meets weekly as a group to discuss topics which are important to us. We have produced five issues of a magazine, The Rag, and we hold occasional open meetings. The article below was written from notes on an open discussion we held called “Why Anarcha-feminism?” It touches briefly upon a lot of topics in a short article, so to read a more in-depth analysis of the issues raised please refer to the Rag magazine.

What is Anarchism?
Sometimes defined as libertarian socialism, the ultimate aim of anarchism is total democracy – for each person to have a direct say in issues that affect their lives, not rely on government to represent them. This requires the destruction of state, hierarchy and class society, and the construction of non-hierarchical bottom-up systems of organisations such as local councils and unions to replace these. There is the need for strong grassroots action and organisation in to prepare for radical change. As many people as possible need to be personally invested in organising to take control of our own resources and interests and to defend our right to do so.

Class and Feminism
Anarcha-feminists have tried to develop an understanding of class, race, ability and LGBTQ issues, paying attention to the fact that all women do not have the same experiences in their oppression as women. We try to be aware of privilege and to make ourselves aware of and learn from women’s struggles globally.

From an anarchist perspective, some anarchists see feminism as a divisive issue, distracting from the 'real' issue of class struggle. Thanks to anarcha-feminism, the anarchist approach increasingly accepts that sexism does exist, and is not just a minor side issue which will fade away with the end of capitalism. When anarchists constantly stress that all experience of patriarchy is linked to class, they can gloss over another truth: the experience of class is differentiated by gender.

In traditional anarchist dialogue the site for revolution has been the workplace; from a feminist perspective the family and the body are additional sites of conflict. This is our literal “means of production” which we should be determined to seize.

Anarcha-feminist Identity
Anarcha-feminists often find it easier to publicly label themselves as feminist than as anarchist. This is because many people who have not considered either concept are more willing to accept the premise that women and men should have equality than to question the core of the current economic and political systems. Many people who profess to believe in equality have not even considered life without capitalism, or that economic systems affect equality. Anarchism also suffers from negative connotations, for example the misassociation with chaos and violence. Ironically, some anarchists are unwilling to identify as feminist due to the negative connotations associated with the feminist label. The capitalist system is very effective in muddying the meaning of concepts which pose a clear threat to that system. It is important to us to be clear that we are feminists and anarchists, and that we see this as a pathway to freedom.

Equality not Sameness
We believe that true equality can never be achieved within any capitalist system. Capitalism will only concede enough to give a convincing illusion of equality. The ideals that early feminists courageously fought for have now been entirely diluted and sold back to us as pink and sterile girl power. We can be whatever we want to be as long as it’s sexy - politician, athlete, scientist or ‘housewife’. We need to be clear that when feminist gains are won, it is in the name of true equality for all people, not as a concession or privilege. Real feminism requires complete social restructuring which can essentially be equated with true anarchism.

One of the misconceptions of the feminist movement has been that for women to be equal to men, we have to be the same. Women joined the rush into the modern workplace to have equal access to exploitation. Many women find they experience a double shift of work – both outside and inside the home. Capitalism has made effective use of patriarchy and in many ways is reliant on it – for example on the nuclear family as the unit of effective consumption and control. The work that women do in producing and caring for children, in keeping the home and in caring for the sick and the old is not valued under capitalism. The value system of capitalism is profit-driven; only that which produces profit is seen as productive.

Queer Feminism
There are overlaps between feminism and queer theory (queerness might be roughly defined as gender or sexuality non-conformism). Anarcha-feminism recognises the fluidity of gender and its construction from birth as a way of acting/talking/thinking. While recognising gender binaries as socially constructed, anarcha-feminism sees that society divides people into ‘male’ and ‘female’, oppressing women and those that don’t fit into strict gender roles.

Although there is some acceptance by wealthy capitalist countries of difference with regard to gender and sexuality, ultimately it is acceptable only as a lifestyle choice, not as a revolutionary force, which it should ultimately be. The destruction of the systems of capitalism, state and patriarchy would lead to an explosion in different ways of being – sexualities, gender identities, family, structures etc.

Patriarchy and Men
The fight for women’s equality has been framed as a “battle of the sexes”. However, feminism has led to a growing consciousness of male oppression under patriarchy, such as strict adherence to masculine gender roles, duty to “provide” in the realm of work and lack of equal rights to active parenthood. Male oppression has been misconstrued as either a product of the feminist movement, or an oversight of it. Yet it is often through feminist dialogue that a space has opened up for discussing these aspects of men’s lives and experiences. Pro-feminist solidarity between men and women can make meaningful inroads into these issues.

Meaningful reform
Many very real changes have been made in women’s lives due to feminist efforts. These include suffrage, the right to work outside the home, equal pay legislation, anti-domestic violence legislation etc. Unlike anarchism, feminist ideology can and has been accepted into capitalist reform. Yet it is socialists and anarchists who have mainly been behind meaningful reform – through the trade union movements, anti-racism work, community work and women’s liberation movements. Unfortunately, many of the ultimate aims of those who struggled to create these reforms have now been lost. Their achievements have been co-opted into seeming like the achievements of “democracy” when in fact they were concessions hard won by activists condemned as radicals of their time.

While continuing to fight for meaningful reform (for example, abortion rights and free childcare), we also want to remain completely clear about what we are fighting for: not just women’s equality, but absolute equality. The ultimate endpoint of feminism is anarchism.  

RAG is always looking for new members, so if you'd like to get involved, please drop us a line either on our Facebook page, or by emailing

The Rag, Issues 1 to 6

The Rag, Issues 1 to 6